Tips for Helping Someone with a Mental Health Problem
Many of us continue to struggle with our mental health, as we adjust to living with Coronavirus. As well as affecting many adults, it is now thought that one in every six young people in the UK have a mental health problem (source: Mind). If you are worried that someone you know is struggling, you can find out what the signs of poor mental health are here.
It can be very difficult to see someone who you care about becoming unwell, but you do not need to be an expert on mental health to offer support. Often small, everyday actions can make the biggest difference. These tips can help you support a young person, or adult, who you are worried about.
Show your support
If you know someone has been unwell, do not be afraid to ask how they are. They might want to talk about it, or they might not. But just letting them know they do not have to avoid the issue with you is important. Spending time with your loved one lets them know you care and can help you understand what they are going through. If you are not sure how to start the conversation read our tips here
Ask how you can help
Everyone will want support at different times and in different ways, so ask how you can help. It could be helping keep track of medication or giving your support at a doctor’s appointment. If a friend, partner or relative wants to get more exercise, you could do this together, or if someone you live with is affected by lack of sleep, you could help them get into a regular sleeping pattern.
Phrases like ‘cheer up’, ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’ and ‘pull yourself together’ definitely do not help. Try to be non-judgemental and just listen, as this is really powerful. Someone experiencing a mental health problem often knows best what is helpful for them.
Don’t just talk about mental health
Keep in mind that having a mental health problem is just one aspect of your friend or family member’s life. Most people do not want to be defined by their mental health problem, so keep talking about the things you have always talked about together. This could be a hobby, music, sport, anything that they would be comfortable talking about.
Show trust and respect
Trust and respect between you and your friend or family member are very important – they help to rebuild and maintain a sense of self-esteem, which a mental health problem can seriously damage. This can also help you to cope a bit better if you can see your support having a positive impact on the person you care about.
Look after yourself
Supporting someone else can sometimes be stressful. Making sure that you look after your own wellbeing can mean that you have the energy, time, and distance you need to be able to help. This is really important. For example:
- Setting boundaries and not taking too much on. If you become unwell yourself, you will not be able to offer as much support.
- Share your caring role with others if you can. It is often easier to support someone if you are not doing it alone. This could just be asking other friends or family to keep in contact with the person you are supporting. See if they can spend some time with them, so you get a break if you are the one that they are mostly reliant on.
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling. You may want to be careful about how much information you share about the person you are supporting, but talking about your own feelings with someone you trust can help you feel supported too.
You may be entitled to social care support from your Local Authority to help you care for your friend or family member. You can contact them directly and ask for a carers assessment.
The charity Carers UK also provide more information and support for carers.